Today was the King’s Speech where Government laid out their policy agenda for the coming year and likely the last time before the next general election. That is why we at Speech and Language UK are so disappointed not to see anything that would help the 1.9 million children currently struggling with talking and understanding words. This is another missed opportunity to introduce legislation that might address the systemic lack of support for children struggling with speech and language challenges.
If Government wants to help the 1.9 million children currently struggling with talking and understanding words, here’s what we think this or a future Government should do:
- Commission a free tracking tool for language development, like the ones schools use for literacy and numeracy. It would be used at the start of KS1 and KS2 by class teachers to measure and track children’s talking and understanding of words so that they can spot when children are struggling. Currently schools have to pay commercial rates to do this, therefore more often than not, they simply don’t.
- Introduce widely available guidance for teachers and schools about what of the many available tools and programmes work best for children with speech and language challenges across the age range.
- Allow the Family Hubs to give extra support early. The Family Hubs and Start for Life programme guide published in August 2022, states that “early language acquisition impacts on all aspects of babies’ and young children’s non-physical development” and contributes to their ability to manage emotions, make friends, and learn to read and write. Yet only parents of children three- to four-years-old are able to get the Home Learning Environment programmes which support language development.
- Review teacher training so it includes how to spot children struggling with the basics of talking and understanding words and how to support them. Content on supporting speech, language and communication skills should be deepened and broadened across the National Professional Qualifications (NPQ) system and ongoing training programmes for existing teachers in developing these skills should be rolled out across all schools.